Tuesday, September 25, 2007

reflections and frustrations

It's almost at the 2 month mark from when I first arrived home from Ghana. I must admit that getting used to everything was tough. For the first few weeks all I wanted to do was get on a plane back to Ghana...I wanted nothing to do with life here. It was especially difficult after getting back to PC where it is almost a different world. People here care about the most trivial things and I just found myself getting frustrated. I still struggle with people saying that they want to hear my stories and about what it was like, and then never follow through. It's hard enough to share this experience with people, but it makes it harder when people only pretend to care. I guess it's not that people don't care, just that they don't realize how it affects me...I need to be more forgiving I suppose.

On Sunday I recieved a letter from a friend in Hohoe. I was so excited to see the letter and realize who it was from...but as I read the letter, my heart sank. It was from my friend John, begging me to get him to America. He told me that I was sent from God to bring him here. I was hurt. I hate that people in Ghana only want a way out...I hate that they don't want to build up their country...I hate that America is some kind of promise land. (i'm over generalizing here to make a point :) ) I am not God...I do not have the power right now to be able to get a visa for someone to come here...would I even desire that for him? Is it fair to bring him over when he has a family...is it fair that he would want to leave his wife and children just to get a ticket to America? Is it fair that there are millions of people in Ghana who don't have that opportunity? It just put a lot of pressure on me, and it hurt me to think that our friendships consists of that...just him wanting to get out of Ghana when he probably has one of the highest paying jobs in the area. Why is life such a series of paradoxes and tension? Why do people value money and status more than relationships?

I hate that my posts have been so down lately, I guess I am still homesick. I am still frustrated, but every day here gets better as I am learning what is truely important.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

I arrived back home yesterday, and have been trying my hardest to put this experience into words, but am finding it nearly impossible. How can I sum up an entire summer in 2 sentnces...how can I explain what I've seen, what I've heard, how I've changed. I'm not really even sure how I've changed...I still feel like me.

Even though I've only been back a few short hours, I am finding it so diffucult. My heart is homesick for the place that I've called home the past few months. Honestly, I feel more at home there than I do here right now. It's been hard living in two different worlds. I have my life in Hohoe, knowing that all the people I met and love are there....still loving...still working...still being, yet I am here. (don't worry...i still love and miss all of you here in the states!) The two worlds are so totally different...my heart is torn and I'm slowly struggling through it. I think it will take some time. I can feel my mind already forgetting what it is like living in Africa...and I never want that to happen. Ghana has bee so good to me and so good for me. I'm also having a hard time with people. It's difficult when people ask me things about it and then don't listen for the answer. I want to share my experience with them, but just find myself getting frustrated. So here is my plea for you, my friends, be patient with me. I want to share, but it may take a while. Really listen when I talk about it...if you're not interested in hearing the answer then please don't ask, but most of all again, be patient with me.

For those of you still in Hohoe, I am jealous...and miss you like crazy...hug melody and mabel for me!

I know this phase will pass...but I will just have to deal with it for now. I am excited to see all of you and let you in on my experience! Thanks for being so supportive through e-mails and comments, you have really shown the Lord's love and encouragement to me.
Hohoe...I long to be back.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Beautiful Volta

This weekend I've watched groups come and go. I was so sad for this past group to leave, we all just seemed to mesh so well, and honestly, I am not ready for a new group to come in. I guess that part of me is sick of change. As the old group was leaving, I couldn't help but have tears in my eyes not only because they were wonderful, but because I'm realizing that I'm leaving in just under two weeks. I cannot believe the summer has gone so quickly. I feel like I have been here for a week. I'm not ready to go...Hohoe is part of who I am...It is my home. I have formed so many close bonds, and seen so many things...it's going to be so hard to leave. I honestly don't know how to describe this experience to anyone...I cannot put it into words...it's something that you'd have to experience. I hope that my pictures and my words can do this trip justice. Two weeks could last a lifetime though.

I got a chance to spend some time at the orphanage last week, and enjoyed it SO much. It has been one of my goals to make a little boy, Godwin, smile when I come....he is so serious. Last week I had a break through...I made him laugh...not just a giggle, but a full belly laugh. It was by far the highlight of my week and I will not forget that smile on his face. Being at the orhpanage just makes me so happy. Every time I go, this boy Bless and I have an agreement that he will tell me one African story. He is quite the story teller, and I am excited to go on monday and hear the latest musings of Anansi the spider. I desire so much for him to have a home, I know that the orphanage is his home but I want him to have all the chances in the world. He probably won't be able to go to secondary school because he does not have the funding, but he is SO smart. He can do great things....i know it...if only he would be given the opportunity.

Pro-Link has also been going well! Two volunteers that have been there for 3 months left, so it has just been the staff and I, and it has been such a blessing. I've gotten an opportunity to really get to know them and they are AMAZING! Christine, the office manager, is such a strong, independent, caring woman. She has done so much at only 24 years of age. We talked a lot about African Christianity on Thursday. It was awesome to see how much faith many of the people here have. I'm hoping to talk with her more about it. The same day...we got into a serious conversation. She asked me what my expectations for africa were before I came. I was surprised by the seriousness of the question as we were previously talking about her fiance. I decided to be honest and tell her that I thought Africa would be like the movies...people begging and begging for my help. I quickly realized that that is NOT Africa...people here don't need me, but I've needed them. They have taught me about life, and love, and the Lord. Ghana has given me so much, I just wish I had something to give it.

George the other manager is ridiculous and we like to joke around. He tell me that I'm "hot cake" which apparently is a good thing. I'll take his word for it. I've met a few of the PLHIV (people living with HIV (like the lingo?)) and they are amazing. They have been so strong to let people in Hohoe know their positive status, eventhough it is so looked down upon by the community. I really look up to their strength and courage as they are fighting this disease!

On a lighter note, I got my hair braided last week. It looks a little ridiculous and I think I am going to take them out today because they are so tight that I haven't slept in 3 nights. It was fun while it lasted. The locals say I'm a real Ghanaian now.

I hope that all is well at home! I will see all of you soon!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

This week I've much much fewer encounters with all of the kids that I have told you about. The van has been busy so I did not make it to the oprhanage even once, which hurts my heart. I am going tomorrow and am anxious to play with them again. Working at Pro-Link has been great so far other than the fact that some of the staff think that I am a certified and trained counselor. It was a challenege trying to explain to them that I am only just beginning to study psychology. I think that it is going to be a job where I am going to have to think on my feet a lot. On friday everyone but one staff member, Kofi, was out of the office. I was supposed to go to a school in a town call Dafour with him, but it turned out that he had to go to some kind of board meeting. So as he's leaving, he tells me that I am to teach a group of nurses about conseling and how to counsel HIV/AIDS patients. I must admit, I was pretty shocked...I don't even know the first thing about conseling! So I stopped, prayed, and began to read up on the conseling training manuel. The session went pretty well, and I thinking that the nurses really understood what I was trying to get across, which was amazing because I'm not really even sure what I said. Needless to say, I do enjoy pro-link and what they do for the community; AIDS is such a stigma here...people don't talk about it. It is seen almost as a disease that you are cursed with. I am excited to see what adventures prolink has for me over the next few weeks.

Also...Pro-Link has a program where it allows someone to sponsor a PL (person living with AIDS). It costs $5 a month to pay for AIDS medication for one person. If any of you are interested in sponsoring someone let me know...there are only 36 more people left to sponsor in Hohoe.

This week seems to have been a reflection week and I've had many amazing converstaions with volunteers about what coming here means...and how it is changing us. We've had to address touch questions here like...are we doing any good? Is it right to help one person and not another? As I mentioned in the last update...i think that the purpose of CCS is not to have volunteers come here and change Hohoe, but it is here to allow Westerners to be changed by another culture, so that we can come back and enlighten other people about what we have learned. I have been so grateful for the other volunteers that have pushed me to think about the hard questions...I know that I still have a lot to learn.

For the first time today, I called Hohoe my home without even realizing it. I've been praying about if Africa is a permanent calling or just where the Lord has me now...honestly I still have no idea, but on with the story. A group went to the coast this weekend, and one woman got sick and is staying in Cape Coast for another day or so. I was talking to one of the staff (Akos...who by the way is one of the most amazing women I have ever met) and she was saying to me that the woman might go home...and by home she meant America. In my head I was thinking....of course she'll have to come back to the homebase...she can't stay in cape coast forever. Hohoe is my home...it is my home.

I cannot believe my time here is halfway through...I'm going home in a little less than a month. I'll probably be ready to come home when 2 months approaches, but right now I am so content in Africa...I still feel like there is so much to do...so much to experience....so many people to know. I have barely scratched the surface here and my time is already winding down. Why does time go by so fast?

Lastly, for those of you who may think that I am only working here in Ghana...namely a certain brother of mine ;), I took a relaxing trip to Lake Volta this weekend (fun fact: it is the largest manmade lake in the world). As weird as this sounds, it was nice to be a tourist...we relaxed, had a soda, and just enjoyed eachothers company without the worries of the week on us. The lake was beautiful...the shoreline was all mountains. It is just like mountains pop out of the lake...my camera battery died, so I didn't get many pictures though.

I pray that everything is going well at home. I miss all of you...but not too much, don't worry haha!

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Itsy Bitsy Spider

I have no idea where to begin. I have seen so many things and done so many things that I never thought I would do, and I have only been here three weeks. I feel as if I can write for three days and still not relay to you all my thoughts and experiences. Today was my last day at St. Francis. A spot opened up at an organization called pro-link which focuses on HIV/AIDS counseling, which I think is perfect for me! I start there on monday. Anyway...St. francis has been amazing, but I felt that the teachers there were doing an amazing job and i was just being a hinderance to their work as they were trying to rearrange their schedules for me. So today we played shapes and colors bingo, a game that the kids have started to look forward to every friday...it took them a while to get it since the language barrier is so huge...but they LOVE it! We had also been working on the Itsy Bitsy Spider song...which has been a challenege. As I left today all the kids stood up and starting singing it...my eyes filled with tears. It was such a great feeling! I'm sad to leave the school, but also excited to start something new.
The school isn't the only thing that is changing around here. All but about 5 of the volunteers were here fore 3 weeks so this weekend everyone is leaving. It's been harder than I anticipated to see them go as many of us formed close frienships. I hate goodbyes, so the past few days have been hard. I'm ready for the new group to come in though, it is time for a change. 30 girls crammed in a house can get a little tiresome and I'm dying for some change. I've been praying that I can be helpful and a friend to the new volunteers...I want to ease their fears as best I can. I've been looking over Pslam 51 about asking God to create a clean heart...so I hope that is what i can have as new people come....an open and clean heart to begin and form new friendships.
In the afternoons I have been pretty regularly going to the Eugemot orphanage. Those kids have stolen my heart from the minute I met them. As soon as we stepped out of the van they ran up and embraced all of us. They have SO much love to give. I don't think I've loved anyone as quickly as I have loved these kids. I'm going to share a few of their personalities with you.

first there is Catherine, she is 13 and has a face that is so stern, yet she is full of grace. she seems so hard on the outside, but is one of the first to come and greet us when we come to visit. she can carry a 15 lb bucket of water on her head with no problem. eventhough she doesn't talk much, we have a connection.

Godwin who is no more than 7, but you'd think he was 25 with his maturity level. I feel like he takes on so much responsiblity at the orphange. He is so serious all the time; he acts tough, but I know that he wants affection. He'll come up to you with a serious face on and sit down and put his head on your shoulder and stay that way for as long as you let him. I wonder what his life has been like...what all he has seen and heard. My goal is to make him smile. Wordsearches and sharpened pencils seem to do the trick. He is by far my favorite...he is tough love.

then there is Bless...he is 12 going on 18. He is so interested in people...he comes up to us and just asks us question after question. If i were 8 years younger, we'd get married haha. I can tell that he has a heart of gold, and it hurts me to know that his chances of adoption are slim because he is so old. Parents usually want to adopt babies. He is making me ponder and pray about adopting and older child when I am ready for a family. I worry that he will not be able to afford secondary school, since only primary school (grades 1-6) is offered at the orphanage. He can do great things. He also LOVES Jesus. Yesterday out of nowhere he began asking me these intense religious questions....like "how do I know the Bible is true" and "what does faith really mean?" I was so excited that he was questioning things because i think that a lot of ghanaian Christianity is just what people accept without making their faith their own. Me and bless...we're going to be good friends.

One thing I love about ghana is that the people are not afraid to go up and ask you if you are a Christian. granted, it makes some people uncomfortable, but I really admire their honesty. I wish everyone in America was that honest. A friend from here is actually dating a ghanaian (for over a year...talk about committment!!!!) and her boyfriend is so honest and I really appreciate it. we were talking one day and he mentioned out of nowhere that my sarcasm could really hurt people...I told him thank you...he's keeping me accountable without me even realizing it.

I have started to get used to the povery here and am realizing how truely happy the people here are. Just because their definition of happy does not match mine does not mean that i need to feel sorry for them. It's funny thinking on this experience and how coming in you think you're going to change the world. Then you realize that you aren't changing anything...it is changing you. there is nothing that I can do so help Ghana...there are small things of course, but for the most part Ghana is helping itself. I have just been glad to witness it. well my online time is dwindling so until next time!
Continue praying and loving and changing. Can't wait to see all of you in a month!

PS-all of your comments and encouraging words have meant so much to me...it has kept me going when I have been so frustrated. I appreciate all your support from the bottom of my heart!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

My new home!

I've been in Hohoe, Ghana for a week and a half now and it is beginning to feel like home. I am getting into the slow paced life that the people here affectionately call ghana time. So I'll give you guys a quick run down of what's been going on so far. I actually got to ghana at about 2:00 am last sunday...exhausted and cranky from traveling. Man, let me tell you, i was so nervous about being here and kept thinking to myself "what on earth am I doing?" Things are much better now, don't worry.
Hohoe is such an endearing town. The streets are dirt and filled with potholes, but I love them. I love everything about this area. the fact that i can walk out of the compound and see mountains and a beautiful sky has me baffled. My favorite part of the town is a HUGE bronze statue of a woman smack dab in the middle of downtown. we call it Miss Ghana, and it is the focal point for all our journey's in town.
The volunteer team has been amazing...I love them all and we get along great besides the fact that we are 30 girls inside a small compound. SO...onto my placement. I have been placed at St. Francis Basic Demonstration School teaching 54 five year olds. I have quickly learned that teaching is not my forte, nor do I enjoy it very much, but the kids are amazing. there have been 3 that have stuck out to me.
Matilda: She is a firecracker...she's tough. She's the kind of girl who won't take crap from anyone. she loves to sing and dance and hold your hand, but is quick to throw off her dress when it's time to play soccer with the boys.
Robert: who introduces himself to me every day, saying "hello, I am robertsolomon." I knew he was a keeper from the minute he raised his hand and said he wanted to be president when he grew up.
Selase: I think that she is the voice of the Holy Spirit to me. She knows about as much English as i know Ewe. Our only communication has been through eye contact, but i feel like i can read her like a book...and she can see straight through me. The first day i was at the school the kids crowded around me because I'm "yevu", a white person...and she just put her hand on my arm as if to say...it's ok, I'm glad you're here. I think I would have lost it without her.
So the teaching is going slow, but I'm enjoying it and learning a TON!
This weekend we took a trip to the coast...it was an adventure to say the least with our van breaking down and us having to push it Little Miss Sunshine style. this weekend was the first time that I have ever desired to see a middle class suburban neighborhood where people are living comfortably. There is SO much poverty here. I just want to turn my head and look away and forget all that i have seen. But I guess this is God's way of showing me what the world is really like...I cant' escape from it. It forces me to be active and deal with what i am uncomfortable with. I just weep for these people, knowing that in 7 weeks I'm going back to hotwater and a bathroom. These people do have love though...so much love. they give up everything to make someone happy. I love that about them.
Yesterday i met a boy who had been a child soldier...it shocked me. He was at the eugemot orphanage, where i am going to be going in the afternoons. He was so kind and accomodating...my eyes whelled with tears thinking of all that he has seen and heard. No child should have to experience that.
So ghana has been changing me...and i know that it has a lot more to teach me. I am anxious to see what else the lord has in store. I keep having to remind myself that perfect love drives out all fear.
sorry this has been so long....I could have typed so much more, but I know no one would have read it all. I love and miss all of you. Continue putting me and ghana in your prayers...you are in mine.

Friday, May 4, 2007

The Harvest is Here, The Kingdom is Near...

I think that starting a post is the worst part. You always want to start out with something witty and funny to grab people's attention...so you sit in front of the computer for a good 5 minutes thinking of the most genius, inventive thing to say; writing down sentences and then deleting them only to start the whole process over. In my head I've been running through impressive things to say, but now I'm just going to lay it all out.

A few weeks ago, a friend came to visit and we watched the Invisible Children documentary again. We didn't even have to begin the movie to have it affect us...as soon as the music came on the menu screen, both of us began to weep as all of the memories of Africa and suffering children came to mind. I was such an overwhelming feeling that I must confess I had forgotten about. Why is it so easy to forget the sufferings of others when we are so comfortable?

It hit me just last week that I am actually going to Africa. I'm not going to be in Chapin again all summer...I am going to be LIVING in Africa. The thought blew me away because I have never had it truely feel real to me, but now that it is less than a month away reality is setting in!

Update time! I actually got all of my support raised thanks to many amazing people and an wonderfully generous scholarship! It is so ridiculous how much the Lord has provided for this trip! His hands and fingerprints have been all over it. As I write this I am astounded by how little faith I actually have. For the past week I have been worried sick because my passport has not arrived, and I still have to get my visa. In my head I have this whole senario of not getting my passport and not being able to go to Africa. It plagues me because it is something that I have absolutely no control over. I love having control and being able to determine how things work and when they will work best for me. It is SO hard for me to let go of things. This is one instance, like raising support, where I am forced to let go. Worrying will get me nowhere. There is a verse in Matthew where the gist is...do not worry for tomorrow has enough worries of its own. The Lord has provided so much already that He has to follow through to the end. It just takes my effort once again to trust Him. The reoccuring theme of my life. Maybe I can get it right this time...